A confession: I know only too personally the joy of early onset male pattern baldness. In my case, it crept up just slowly enough for Minoxidil to preserve a few token sprouts. Still, my “early onset” was late twenties, how much more traumatic would it have been if I’d been in my early teens? That’s the predicament facing the title character of this mostly irritating comedy from SNL gagster turned writer-director T. Sean Shannon.

Shannon doesn’t seem to know whether he wants to make a wholesome and small-scale yet over-the-top teen-comedy a la “Napoleon Dynamite” or a more realistic coming of age tale. He might have done slightly better with the latter because, despite his background, the ratio of good to bad jokes is about 1 to 15, Moreover, as Harold, young Spencer Breslin (Abigail’s big brother) is asked to almost single-handedly carry the movie. The stocky Breslin at times seems to be channeling a young Paul Giamatti in the scenes where he’s supposed to be way-prematurely crochety (apparently, he’s internalized his baldness to some degree), but then lapses into Michael Cera-style deadpan once all the old-guy “Murder She Wrote”/”Matlock” jokes we’ve been hearing for months in regards to John McCain have been exhausted. Unfortunately, neither really works — but it’s clearly not his fault. More experienced costars Ally Sheedy as Harold’s mom and Cuba Gooding, Jr. as his school’s wacky-but-helpful janitor, are equally at sea. Even cameos by such comedy sure things as Fred Willard and Chris Parnell aren’t able to do a whole lot with this unsure, and sometimes downright agonizing, material. While not completely wretched — I laughed several times and things do pick-up slightly in the last reel – in the ranks of coming of age comedies, “Harold” doesn’t really rank at all.

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